The Somerset Labour Party launched it’s County Council election Campaign last Friday (24th May), with candidates in 51 seats. The powerhouse of that bid to have a controlling influence at County Hall is here in Bridgwater where Labour runs the Town Council with 14 out of 16 seats and has the majority of district Council seats, 10 out of 14, and 2 of the 4 county councillors.
Town Council leader Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour,Westover) says “In fact Labour has been out leafletting and canvassing for weeks and the message on the doorsteps is that people want the Tories out and don’t trust the Lib Dems who put them in power in the first place and were the joint architects of the austerity which is causing so much harm at the moment. The things people want to talk about are jobs, hospitals, housing and transport. The Lib Dems were wiped out in this area years ago and currently have just one town, one district and no county councillors. UKIP are past their sell-by date. Now the referendum issue is history so are they. Their 2 district councillors struggle to think of anything to say at council and so usually don’t. To break the Tory hold on county and to stop people thinking they have to vote LibDem to do that people need to have confidence and vote Labour to bring about the real change needed.”
Labour on the March
Bridgwater Town, District and County Councillor Leigh Redman, Labour Group Leader, speaking at the launch, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see so many prospective Labour councillors here today, many of whom will be standing for election for the first time to offer voters an alternative to the current administration of Somerset. The Labour Party is the largest and most active political party in Somerset and has seen a resurgence in support over the past two years as it becomes clear that business as usual at County Hall is not an option.
Leigh continued “Through our manifesto for Somerset we have set out a positive, realistic alternative message for how a Labour run County Council would put our values and priorities into action for the people of Somerset. We would protect services for the most vulnerable, create a sustainable environment, promote economic growth for Somerset’s workers and businesses, invest in our children’s education and protect the vital culture and heritage of our historic county.People are entitled to ask if the current administration is up to the task. No one I speak to thinks they have done a good job as stewards of our County. “
“Our clear answer is that Labour is the change we need. Last year Somerset had the biggest council tax rise in England and yet we still had huge overspends on budgets in the current financial year, with the Council on the very edge of declaring itself bankrupt. This happened while essential services have continued to be cut year-on-year and while other services, such as our long-failing Children’s Services, have descended into further crisis. For children and grandchildren, for the people in desperate need across Somerset, this cannot be allowed to continue. Our promise is that Labour will do better”
Labour’s Task in Bridgwater
In Bridgwater,Labour holds the South (Hamp and Westover) and the North (Eastover and Sydenham) seat but in the past has held all 4 Bridgwater seats and aim to win these back this time round. Cllr Smedley says “We have chosen 2 of our best candidates to take on the Tory grandees that are only in the East and West seats by virtue of UKIP splitting the vote last time round. Our top targets are removing Ann Bown in the West and David Hall in the East.”
“ The West seat includes Victoria and Wyndham and for Town Council these two seats have 3 Labour and no Tories so we think our man Tony Heywood has a good chance. Tony has been out there from day one leafletting and knocking on doors and getting a great response. On one occaision he knocked on a ladies door and asked how he could help her, she said ‘well you could make me a cup of tea’ and so he did.”
Taking down the Tory Grandees
“In Bridgwater East and Bawdrip Labour is fielding Cllr Diogo Rodrigues who fronts the Town Councils Youth Forum and is a passionate campaigner for young and old alike, with particular interest in the area of social care. Diogo has really worked hard to build up a large and active young Labour group in the district and has personally been responsible for getting down 4 Labour MPs to Bridgwater who have all been out on the doorsteps with him showing that our town, long a labour stronghold, is now taken seriously by the National Party as an example of trailblazing for Labour revival in the south west.”
Labour candidates energizing the debate
Labour is also fielding strong candidates from it’s massively increased membership in the other 3 areas neighbouring Bridgwater. New Branch Chair Jane Grenfell has been getting her teeth into the key issues of the North Petherton ward fighting hard on schools , transport and safe routes, Women’s Officer Chelsea Chadwick is flying the flag in the Huntspill ward which includes former Labour areas such a Woolavington and NHS worker Philip King is proving a popular choice as a local candidate in the Quantock Hills ward of Cannington.
Vote Labour on May 4th
Cllr Smedley says “On May 4th Bridgwater can be the deciding factor in who controls County and we need to return as many Labour Councillors as possible. I think we can do that if people have faith.”
For details about the County launch click here
For the Somerset Labour County Manifesto click here